Being a Mary during COVID-19

This morning in my devotion, I read the story of Mary and Martha. To be honest, I’ve always rolled my eyes at the story, because growing up the story was told as “don’t be a Martha!”

And guess what, sisters? I’m totally a Martha.

I’ve always envied Mary’s. I have always envied people who can sit back and relax, just sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

But to be honest, I don’t know a lot of real-life Mary’s. And I’m sure most of my sisters in ministry can especially relate.

But this morning I read the story a little differently.

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

Verses 41-42 hit me: “Martha, you are worried over all the details, so anxious and troubled. But girl, only one thing actually matters.”

When the news that church would be cancelled for the next 4-8 weeks, I ran into Martha mode. I immediately jumped in and started to just do a lot of things. I started creating a bunch of junk, listening to my never-ending list of ideas. I was envious of what other churches were coming up with, wondering how I can contextualize it and make it “fit” for us.

My first week, I filmed three different teaching videos and created at-home guides for my three different middle school age groups (preteen, Confirmation, 8th grade), went on Instagram Live every day for both middle school AND high school, and did a bunch of other things that I can’t even tell you because guess what? It all failed.

I had a come-to-Jesus moment though, where I realized that I was spinning my wheels creating all this content, when in fact I needed to create connection. Everything I had been doing was to make myself look better, to keep myself busy. Nothing I was doing was for the actual thing that was important: our students.

The most important thing in this COVID-19 crisis is to foster connection with students, not create content.

And once I understood this, my vision for what I needed to do during this COVID-19 crisis became oh-so-clear: To do whatever it takes to foster connectivity among our students.

And so, I pared it down:

  • Rather than students completing a lesson by themselves, I created a Zoom meeting. My attendance increased 10x.
  • Instead of doing Instagram Lives and giving a devotion each day to our students, I am texting parents using our church database software every other week and asking “how can I pray for you?”
  • Rather than calling all of our students in the program, I gave our Small Group Leaders two responsibilities in this season: text/email their small group once a week, and show up to Zoom Youth Group.
  • And to make it easier on everyone, I send out the link to our Zoom Youth Groups via text 20 minutes before our meeting because everyone is over-emailing and I know my stuff is getting lost.
  • Rather than filming my own lessons, I am using a free video curriculum from Grow.

I still have plenty to do, of course. I’m a Martha, duh.

But I am committing to being a Mary for at least the next month. I am not focused on the anxious things, the hard things, the busy things. Instead, I am focusing on the most important thing: Fostering connection among students.

Heather Lea Kenison
Heather Lea Kenison

Heather serves as the Director of Student Ministries at St. Luke’s UMC in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband and two cat children. Heather is the Founder of Women in Youth Ministry and is passionate about women finding community so that their voices will be heard. Heather is a devout follower of Jesus, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Youtube beauty gurus. Follow her cats and Enneagram 8 things on her social media @heatherlea17

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